Despite fanboy and Twitter egg outrage everywhere, the all-female Ghostbusters was released Friday to generally positive reviews. But what many saw as a supernatural classic, the 1984 original Ghostbusters was so much more than a supernatural comedy. It was the very foundation on which I built my PR career. It’s true. Little known fact that Ivan Reitman made the movie as a metaphorical mirror on the PR industry. Slimer was most clients.
So as a new generation of PR newbies into the workforce and with the lady-driven Ghostbusters scaring up laughs across the country, I wanted to revisit the Top 10 Ghostbusters quotes that defined PR to the world.
“Sorry, Venkman, I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.” – A not-so-subtle description of how PR reps feel the day before a client announcement and some of your go-to media decline a pre-briefing.
“Egon, somehow this reminds me of the time you tried to drill a hole in your head. Do you remember that?” – What every PR practitioner thinks while a client is asking why their new app update wasn’t in the Wall Street Journal.
“You’re very handy, I can tell. I bet you like to read a lot, too. I read a lot myself. Some people think I’m too intellectual but I think it’s a fabulous way to spend your spare time. I also play racquetball. Do you have any hobbies?” – Classic new business pitch opening line when you’re trying to relate to the CMO in any way possible to build a connection.
“Uh … if there’s a steady paycheck in it? I’ll believe anything you say.” – Verbatim what PR interns say during an interview.
“I am Vinz, Vinz Clortho, Keymaster of Gozer. Volguus Zildrohar, Lord of the Sebouillia.” – Some CMOs, I won’t name names.
“Ray… pretend for a moment that I don’t know anything about metallurgy, engineering, or physics — and just tell me what the hell is going on.” – Internal monologue when a tech client is describing what they do.
“Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes! Volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!” – Mood around a PR office when the client emails asking if they can have a quick call to discuss budget.
“I have a radical idea. We cross the streams.” – Last ditch pitching efforts when you need to secure more media briefings.
“No job is too big, no fee is too big.” – When agencies overpromise during a new business pitch while the account lead starts to freak out that they can’t deliver on that.
“We came! We saw! We kicked its ass!” – Every single PR rep when a reporter emails back and says “Sure, I’d love to speak with your client.”
Generating interesting and timely hooks that reel in media is the bread and butter of any PR pro. One of the most common ways of doing this is taking advantage of holidays and seasonal trends. Come mid-November, Christmas trees and twinkle lights begin to appear, and there are more promotions than you can wrap your head around. Just as stores and companies begin planning their holiday promotion months in advance, so do those behind holiday-themed PR campaigns.
Here are a couple of PR tips on how to be successful in leveraging the holiday and seasonal topics this year.
We are fortunate that in this day and age there is pretty much a holiday for anything and everything. However, you don’t want to over exhaust your efforts. Be selective – pick and choose the ones that would make the most sense for your client.
For example, before deciding on your plan for a ‘back to school’ strategy, do an audit of all back to school coverage from the previous year. Figure out what kind of stories were told, when media started writing about them, what publications picked them up, etc. If most of the successful back to school campaigns launched in June and July, rather than August and September, you need to start strategizing earlier than initially thought.
The majority of companies and brands like to take advantage of holidays because it gives them a chance to connect with media and audience in engaging ways. But because everyone is taking advantage, stray away from the cliché holiday topics like ‘what mom wants for Mother’s day’. The reporters you’re pitching likely have a full inbox of holiday story ideas that are all the same. Come up with a clever way to stand out from everyone else. Instead of pitching a holiday gift guide this Christmas, figure out a way to pitch your client as a thought leader around the holiday. With every new season comes different areas of interest. In the summer people are interested in outdoor activities, safety, and travel. If you’re client can shine light on any of these topics, you can proactively think of a variety of unique angles and stories to pitch the media that are of interest of a client’s audience.
A great example of planning ahead and thinking differently is the new Anheuser Busch campaign. In May, the company announced it was changing the name of Budweiser to “America”, until the presidential elections are over in November. With their new slogan, “America is in your hands”, Anheuser Busch is spreading awareness of the importance of voting. AB is using a timely topic, in this instance the presidential election, to promote their beer. They beat the crowds of companies that will be running promotions in the few months leading up to the election by starting theirs when there wasn’t as much hype. In turn, their strategy didn’t get lost in the crowd.
Leveraging timely topics and holidays is a great way to create additional PR strategies for your clients. Whether it’s positioning clients as thought leaders or building awareness, the time of the year and recent events around the world, there is always a creative angle you can leverage with the media.
With the 2016 All-Star break coming up this week, all eyes are on the best players in baseball. Regardless of the sport, the “All-Stars” are your highlight reel players, the cream of the crop, and often the richest athletes in the game. The All-Star Week brings a variety of competition, this year to San Diego, including the annual Home Run Derby.
We hear the term home run used outside of sports everyday as a metaphor describing a great win, accomplishment, or other rewarding news. When it comes to PR, the same rule applies. As great coverage like a product launch placement or a well-written byline hit—we often reference the sports terminology. Unlike a home run in baseball, however, a trip around the bases in PR is a whole lot harder to define.
What’s a Home Run?
In baseball, it’s a hit over the fence. It’s a game-changing, sometimes game-winning play. In the PR world, the effects from a home run piece of coverage are often the same: more leads for the client’s sales team, the eye of an elusive VC, or a recruitment tool for a new executive. Whatever the effects, it’s important to define what that win will look like to a client in advance. Each business and individual we work for has his or her own definition of that PR home run. Sure, we hear a lot of “Forbes, Fortune, and Wall Street Journal”, but for other clients, a coverage win is a de-positioning article within a niche industry, or a contributed piece from a CEO that has yet to break into the thought leadership category.
This is one of our main questions in a meeting with a prospective client looking to engage with our agency. If you can wave a magic wand and land a placement anywhere in the media, what message does it contain and where is it at? At the end of the day, it’s our job to make sure our partners and their stories have the best batting average possible.
We Hit Singles Too!
Not every hit is going to be a home run, and some news stories have more potential to go deep than others. Those base hits, or smaller coverage wins, can be a great foundation for larger narratives down the road. They serve to introduce a new client to a journalist, warming the relationship for that bigger hit in a later inning. Our partners and our own team understand it’s a process, and playing small ball while waiting for that next big product launch, funding announcement, or controversial thought leadership piece – to come up and clear the bases really does work. Just ask the KC Royals.
So we’re ready to go to bat for your business, and we’ve got pretty heavy hitters and some very fast base runners in our lineup. One way or another, we’ll be scoring winning runs for your team.
“Will, you have a blog post due today.” “No problem, let me brainstorm some ideas….”
First email comes through – “can you take a review?” Ok, do this quickly then back to the brainstorming. Skype – “do you have an example?” Send that over, then back to the blog. “ThooooomY has liked your photo” – Wait, really? You’re not Thom Yorke, just some robot. Back to the blog.
Three hours later, and still no blog post. What gives? Too much content, too many notifications. How can anyone stay on track with flashing signs, constant beeps and blips, and wretched “phantom vibrations.” Checking email, looking at your phone, managing notification pop-ups – these modern tools meant to keep you informed are actually bringing you down, and they’re affecting your work flow. Here are some tips to help you stay on track:
Turn that phone upside down
For whatever reason, my phone receives emails faster than my computer. If my phone is in my pocket, I’ll feel that email before I can get eyes on it. It’s engrained in our systems to check that email right when it comes through. What if it’s important? Ok, pull out the phone, unlock it, navigate to the new email, and…. Spam. What was I writing before? Couldn’t tell you.
Take your phone out of your pocket, and flip it on its face. When you see your phone light up, it’s nearly impossible not to check it. Take care of the task at hand, then you can scroll through the endlessness of iPhone wonders.
“Do Not Disturb”
Skype, Slack and instant messaging in the workplace are great at times, horrible at others. Tools that help teams communicate quickly are great when you’re discussing the plan of action. When you’re knocking out some writing, an award submission or writing an email, they often disturb and distract.
Get in the habit of flipping to “Do Not Disturb” mode. Messages will come in, but you won’t see those pesky notifications every time someone sends a thumbs up. You can focus on your work and chime in after with your mic-dropping update – “finished…everything.”
Emails… so many emails. Your inbox sees over a hundred emails a day, but how many are time-sensitive? How many do you reply to? ProfNet, HAROs and newsletters – all great sources of information, but they can usually bog down your inbox.
50 unread messages might give you a heart attack. Filter non-time sensitive emails into a folder. They won’t pop up on your phone and they won’t come with a notification on your computer. Check them every couple times a day to stay on track, but don’t let their presence take you away from writing a press release.
If you have any question about my tips, shoot me an email. I’ll get back to you after I’ve finished all my work.
The school year has ended — you’ve either just graduated and are looking for that internship that leads into your first full-time job, or are a college student looking to get that first internship experience to stick on your resume.
We’ve all been there — you land that internship and then think to yourself “now what?” or “what can I do to make the best impression on my colleagues as possible?”
At Barokas, there are plenty of us that have been in your shoes — a lot of us started at the agency as interns after all (including myself). With internship season well underway, we wanted to provide all the interns out there a little insight into what makes a great intern, and how interns can make the most out of the opportunity. I reached out to a handful of former interns here to help answer these questions and included the most common pieces of advice below. So without further ado — how to make the most out of your PR internship:
First and foremost — ask all the questions you can think of. After all, you’re here to learn the ins and outs of PR, what better way than to ask questions. Your colleagues will appreciate you for it and it shows you’re being proactive.
Don’t Be Afraid
Be aggressive and bold during your internship — ask questions. Volunteer to handle tasks and take some work off your colleagues’ plates. Be excited and passionate. Learn from your mistakes and most importantly, have fun!
Find one thing that strikes your interest and try to own that for the office. Whether it’s consumer tech, enterprise tech, government tech, financial tech, etc. — knowing your niche and going for it will make your internship much more worthwhile.
Get to Know Your Colleagues
Coffee walks (these are big in the Denver office). Go on as many coffee walks as you can with every single person at your office. Get to know them, how they got into PR and determine their area of expertise. This shows you’re taking the initiative in your internship and getting to know your (potential) future team!
As you can see, Barokas PR interns benefit the most from asking questions, being proactive and being the squeaky wheel at the office. Your internship is what you make of it, whether you end up here with us, at another agency, or in-house elsewhere.
Now go out there and be that rock star intern. Have fun and enjoy!
Teamwork is something that is highly valued at BPR. Whether it’s stepping up when someone is out on vacation, or working through a project together to save time, without teamwork our company would not succeed.
Just like baseball players must work together to win the game, PR peeps must work together to keep clients happy. Last week, some members of BPR Seattle headed over to Safeco Field to cheer on our M’s and after seeing the teamwork they utilize to perfect their craft, I thought I’d share a few ways that BPR utilizes teamwork.
Working together internally is the best way to fulfill the needs and wants of your clients. If the team is on the same page and collaborates on each initiative, from planning and strategizing the idea to executing it in a timely manner, the results will show. Our clients depend on us and expect the best, and in order to deliver we must work together as a team.
We work together as a team to pitch the best to each and every reporter. The account lead takes point, but each member of the team plays an integral role to see media relations through to the end. Typically, the media list falls in the court of the AAE, the pitch drafting falls in the court of the AE, and the overall strategy and plan falls in the court of the account lead. However, all three team members can collaborate on how the research will be done to find the best contacts for the media list, and what angle can be used to better pitch each contact, and the results will be better than if the team doesn’t work together.
Teamwork doesn’t end with account teams, but is spread across the entire agency. We are constantly working together to make sure that everyone has the resources needed to get the job done. We are firm believers in sharing the love, whether it be sharing media lists, publication research or reporter intel – remember, teamwork makes the dream work!
And no agency is complete without some team bonding!
You watch the barista behind the counter pour the beans into the chamber, flip the switch and then you hear the loud, grinding of coffee. While the beans are grinding, you see them pour your milk of choice into the steel container and watch as it loudly begins to steam. The barista sets it down, gives it a few goods pound on the counter to separate the foam, and by this time the beans have ground to the perfect texture. Using the tamp to compress the coffee and remove the excess air, your favorite barista places the portafilter on the espresso machine and pulls the shot. The result is perfectly dark brown and fades to a lighter shade at the top and takes a few moments to pour. You watch as the barista pours the shot and into your cup while simultaneously pouring the milk into the center of the cup. Once the cup is over halfway full, the barista moves it back and forth and a design forms on top of the foam.
Seem familiar? It’s likely what you watch take place every morning at your friendly local coffee shop. If you’re wondering why you just read a descriptor on how to make a latte on a PR agency’s blog, you’ll be surprised to find out that coffee and PR have a lot in common – aside from fueling every PR pro around. (Or maybe I’ve just had too much coffee). Either way, read on for a few PR skills.
They always say practice makes perfect. You won’t master pouring perfect espresso shots or steaming milk to the perfect texture without a little practice. The same goes for PR. There is always room for improvement, whether it’s with writing, public speaking, client communications or media relations.
Whether you’re communicating with clients and teammates or waiting for that piece of coverage to hit months after the briefing, you will realize that patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to PR. Patience and practice go hand-in-hand, whether you’re practicing latte art or PR skills, you’ll need patience to get you to your goal.
Timing is everything. Just like it is important to have the right timing while pouring espresso and steaming milk, it is crucial to strategize the best possible day for your client’s announcement. As soon as there are some tentative dates or a timeframe in mind, it is time to do your homework. Look up everything that is going on in your area and make sure that there are no major conferences, announcements from industry behemoths, or holidays that conflict with your client’s news.
The reality is, unless you’re good at multitasking, the barista life is not for you – and the same goes for PR. You have to be quick on your feet and able to juggle multiple tasks of differing priority levels at one time without dropping the ball.
Yesterday was a first for BPR Seattle —and Seattle itself for that matter. Close to noon, just before the lunch hour hunger pains began to kick-in, us PR pros, along with about every other type of professional in the downtown area, experienced a different kind of pain: a pain in the butt as the city went dark.
Yes, the power went out across the city —spreading from Pioneer Square into Belltown—at one of the busiest times of the day. As office workers everywhere peered out their windows at each other, and then down into the slightly chaotic streets as the streetlights went out, the realization seemed to hit everyone at once—no Internet (insert scared face!).
Certain experiences force us to take a step back and realize how completely reliant as a society we’ve all become on the world wide web, and a mass power outage on a mid-week work day is definitely one of them.
While we scrambled around the office, slightly exhilarated at the idea of sitting in a circle and telling ghost stories, we thought about the client calls that were getting canceled, the briefings that were put on hold, the emails that were sitting in limbo—and the anxiety hit. The perk to working in downtown Seatown is that many of our clients, being the tech savvy start-ups that they are, are located in a nearby area—and feeling the same pain. But that knowledge didn’t help much as the to-do lists stared glaring back at us, with no further lines crossed out.
In hindsight, it can be a little scary to think of our attachment as an industry to the Internet—our complete and utter reliance on it. How can we send an email to our clients, how can we host an analyst briefing with a virtual conference line required for screen sharing, how can we conduct research, track for client coverage, and on an on and on? PR runs on power, Internet power for which there is no emergency back-up source.
So, with that said, the next tech start-up that comes up with an Internet back-up solution—we want to work with you, promote you—spread your life saving gospel from the tip of the Space Needle. When there’s a will, there’s a way…that’s how the saying goes, right?
On May 10, our client the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) in conjunction with Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) put on an event on the topic of Sex Trafficking & the Tech Industry. The goal was to raise awareness about the issue of sex trafficking and initiate a dialogue among the tech industry to combat the problem here in Washington.
With such a sensitive subject there were naturally opposing views across the various speakers at the event – the King County Prosecutor, a sex trafficking survivor, c-level execs of local tech companies and a VC firm. Understanding these perspectives and encouraging the dialogue were a key to success from a media and event perspective.
The event with all its moving parts, reinforced the importance of some PR essentials:
Live and Die by the Messaging
It’s no secret that for any major initiative, it’s critical to have messaging nailed down before crafting the press release, the pitch, and most importantly, before approaching the media. However, we found this to be even more crucial with an event that covered controversial topics.
When multiple organizations and speakers with differing agendas are involved, it’s imperative that everyone agrees on a single messaging document. With multiple stakeholders, the sooner you start the message development process the better. And by soon we mean weeks, or preferably even a full month in advance. Throwing messaging together last minute is not only difficult from an approvals perspective, but also stalls the timeline for media outreach. Once the messaging has the green light from all key parties, be sure to distribute it to all participants involved so everyone is on the same page prior to being faced with any press questions.
Face Time with Press & Speakers
On the day of the event, it’s critical that the PR team proactively position themselves as the go-to coordinators for the speakers and press. At the WTIA event, we set up a table and checked in all press, speakers, and panelists – both equally important to meet and greet.
For press members, we put together a one-sheet document that included the agenda and background about each speaker and shared it with press ahead of the actual event. This allowed us to gain insight into the different angles each member of the press would take so we could set expectations with clients and coordinate interviews at the event. When press checked in at the event, we told them we’d act as the point people for coordinating with any of the speakers and asked if they had specific speakers in mind that they wanted to speak with after the event. We also asked if they were planning to stay until the end of the event. This allowed us to prioritize and coordinate with speakers at the event, even if that meant pulling the speaker aside during a break for an interview.
When speakers arrived, we had them check in with us so that we could introduce ourselves and let them know that we were their go-to person for all things media. It was critical that we were aware of which speakers were comfortable speaking with press and who they were representing (personal interest versus corporate affiliation). Knowing this information ahead of time allowed us to offer the right set of speakers to reporters.
Don’t Be Afraid of Broadcast
The nature of broadcast news is quick and constantly changing. It doesn’t matter how many times you call them the days leading up to your event, they will not make a decision to cover your event until the morning of – and sometimes after your event has already started. This was reinforced when we pitched broadcast news stations in Seattle. “Call back Monday,” or “We’ve got you in the docket, but we won’t know until Tuesday morning,” or “Sounds interesting, call me tomorrow at 9am” are all common responses you should expect.
Print out your broadcast media list and be prepared to have each station on speed dial, calling the news desk multiple times the morning of your event – the sooner the better. Even with a bright and early phone call, the likely response will be to call back in a few minutes to check in and this will likely be the response you get when you call back a second or third time.
The good news? Broadcast stations are extremely friendly, helpful, and appreciate the prompt follow up. The rule of thumb is to continue checking in until all meetings and decisions have been wrapped up at the station and you get a definitive yes or no. You might feel like you are being annoying – don’t. When that news anchor calls you back letting you know their en route to cover your event and you’re on the 11 o’clock news that night, it will all be worth it!
Be who you are. One of the easiest ways to be successful in PR is to find your niche and what you are good at, and run with it. Really good at creative puns? Awesome, add those into all of your pitches. If you are really good at speaking on the phone, consider calling reporters instead of emailing. Everyone has their “thing.” For Barokas PR, it is being weird and using that to our advantage.
Always have confidence. Fact: PR has a lot of emotional ups and downs. There will be weeks where media won’t be your best friend, and weeks where you will have client complications. In order to get through all the PR lows, it is important to have confidence. You know what you are doing and what you are talking about, now prove it to everyone else. You got this.
Read up on industry news. In order to successfully launch your client into the marketplace, you have to know what is happening first. Here at Barokas PR, we create weekly Marketplace News recaps for our clients, highlighting the important and relevant industry news released that week. It helps keeps us all knowledgeable on what is happening in the industry, and also provides insight into proactive pitching opportunities. Reading is good for you.
Own a task on your account, and make it your bitch. You may not like everything in PR, or everything you are responsible for on your account, but own it and make it your best work. For example, coverage tracking can be a very tedious tasks, but as the King (or Queen) of Coverage Tracking, view it as the opportunity to have the first stab at proactive pitches and score some awesome media opportunities. Everything you are given has a purpose.
Keep your word. If you say you are going to do something, do it. No one likes being micromanaged and no one likes micromanaging. At an agency, it is extremely important to be organized in order to keep up with everything on your plate. Find a method that works for you; whether that be setting calendar reminders or writing millions of sticky notes. Prove that you are able to handle what is given to you and meet all deadlines. Do not go against your word!
All for one, and one for all. Although PR can seem like an individual job at times, it is all about teamwork. Your account will not succeed unless everyone is on the same page, and everyone supports each other. Even if you may be jealous that your co-worker got an awesome opportunity, make sure to congratulate them and use this high note to keep on trucking.
Spend time on yourself. Yes, PR can be a very demanding job, but it is important to take care of yourself as well. If you are having a stressed day, put down your devices and take a walk outside, call your mom, or hey even adult color. Having a work-life balance is key to successful work during the 9 to 5 hours (or 7 to 7 hours).
Proactive. That word says enough. Don’t wait for your client to tell you what to do, but rather proactively present them with your thoughts and creative PR ideas. Also, be proactive with your team internally. If you think of an idea, or see a piece of news, tell your team. Don’t wait for someone else to present the idea. Do it yourself!
Relationships, build them. PR is all about relationships. If you successfully pitch a reporter, don’t just leave it at business, add a personal touch. If you studied abroad in Europe, and the reporter you are working with lives in Europe, bring up your experience and chat about the kinds of things you did while you were there. The reporter will appreciate that you are looking at them as a person, not just a media outlet. Additionally, stay in touch with them. Check-in from time to time to keep the relationship going.